For many, conventional thinking in business says to lower expectations so that you can manage those expectations better – and beat those lower expectations by doing just enough, not by over-performing. The problem with lowering expectations is that it results in sustained poor performance; it will eventually demotivate employees and cause value to be defined on commoditization. The customer will begin to associate those lower expectations – yours and theirs – with weak experiences that eventually lead to churn.
The National Automatic Merchandizing Association (NAMA) looked at today’s rapidly changing world of consumption1.
In a service industry, there are two important components that underpin a winning business proposition: products and services. NAMA looked at how consumers and decision-makers view their expectations and levels of satisfaction with both of these. While overall satisfaction is extremely high, expectations are too low, with no substantial differences between consumers and decision-makers on measures of both product and service expectations and satisfaction.
Consumers 21% 92%
Decision Makers 39% 97%
Consumers 19% 91%
Decision Makers 40% 97%
Why would expectations be so low while satisfaction is so high?
Across the OCS industry, data shows that expectations are this low because owner-operators and the industry at large need to better define their offerings in a way that aligns with what causes such high satisfaction.
How can expectations be raised and what does it mean to do so? Communicate a promise as to what your product and your service offering will deliver. Do this in your marketing and communications. Do this in training of employees. Imbed this thinking into the organization and with your suppliers.
Of course, this all begs the question: If we do raise expectations, can we know that we’ll exceed them? Based on the data shown in the table, the answer is a resounding yes because the industry and owner-operators are already scoring so high on satisfaction.
The following represent the most significant areas where you can both raise expectations and have a significant, positive impact on account retention and acquisition. These are specific areas in which to train your employees, have dialogue with accounts, and measure progress:
• Make helpful equipment recommendations based on the situational needs of an account
• Make helpful product recommendations across coffee, tea, and water so that accounts and consumers know what else can be provided beyond their existing knowledge
• Demonstrate that you understand the personal needs of the individual at an account – from procurement to the office manager to the employees
• Demonstrate that you understand and are knowledgeable of coffee, tea, and water. You are seen as the expert and there is trust in wanting you to provide guidance.
• Show that you are thinking ahead and let the account know about changes in the coffee, tea, and water space.
• You are not there to just deliver a product. Act as a partner to help an account make better decisions.
• Align incentive pay to your employees that encourages them to act as partners or develop an account team that helps to facilitate a partnering mentality.
• Get personal and ensure that you know people by name and their interests, but more importantly that they know your employees by name and their interests.
• Train employees on the importance of personal appearance and how they should carry themselves when interacting with employees and decision-makers. It may sound basic, but this is the “blocking and tackling” of account management.
Is value selling your product at the lowest price? No.
Is value treating your customer as they would not want to be treated? No.
Is value skimping on quality? No.
Is value lowering expectations so you can beat them? No.
We define value as the totality of the experience one has with your product and service versus their expectations. Value is consistently exceeding expectations – high expectations – in the delivery of your offering.
When that is accomplished, the types of outcomes you seek are realized – customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, premium pricing, minimal churn, and an emotional bond with your customer that withstands stressful times in the future. Mediocrity is a losing formula. Lift yourself and others to expect – to ask for – greater.
1 NAMA, Office Beverage Service Strengths and Opportunities, November 2012.
Mike Dabadie is the founder of Heart+Mind Strategies, LLC, a research consultancy that continues to pioneer the use of personal-values insights and marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.